At the beginning of my internship, I listed one of my goals for the summer as improving my writing skills. Now, I know what you are thinking: shouldn’t I already have strong writing skills as an intern at Porter Novelli? The truth is that you always have room to improve your writing, no matter how fantastic your skills. Don’t believe me?
After my first month here, I joined a writing workshop with all the members of PN’s technology practice. Senior VPs and interns alike turned out to refresh their prose. I walked out with plenty of tricks and tips, and pulled out four key pieces of advice to help you out:
1 & 2: Keep it concise; don’t use jargon. I clumped these two together, because excluding jargon and “life sucking” words keeps writing concise. After a few weeks here, I was attached to anything with an “ize” at the end. I wrote about customers utilizing solutions to optimize results. The writing seminar made it clear that unlearning this jargon was the only way forward. There is plenty of marketing speak you will pick up within your first week as an intern, but be careful what you repeat. Every word needs to have meaning and purpose and if there is a simpler way to say it, use that word instead.
3: Find the active voice. Basically, the action is completed by the subject of your sentence. This also helps keep sentences concise. Avoid “to be” verbs, which generally lead to passive voice. To better explain, here is an example from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
“The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:
I shall always remember my first trip to Boston.
This is much better than
My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
The latter sentence is less direct, less bold and less concise.”
Side note – a great verb does not need an adverb.
4: If you are stuck, take a walk. Writing is like any other skill; you need to “stay in shape” to perform your best. Try writing every day and don’t multi-task when you write. Focus. If you are focused and still can’t seem to get a word on paper, take a walk outside. Moving around will get you thinking again.
If you are looking for more positive feedback on your next assignment, try these four tips. Afterwards, let me know how it goes. Do you have any additional tips to add?
– Brianna Wagenbrenner, Porter Novelli Atlanta
Photo from: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1280072
By Amanda Coppock
In my time as an intern at Porter Novelli, one of the areas I came to love was media relations. While some enjoy this function of PR more than others, at one point or another it is a skill that we will all have to master. Like any skill, with media relations, practice makes perfect. Sure, at first it can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task, but once you begin establishing relationships with reporters, it becomes more comfortable.
Through my experience with media relations, I have developed a few key steps for writing pitches:
Developing a Tailored Pitch
1. Identify reporters and outlets that have covered similar stories in the past.
2. Develop a pitch that is specific to the reporter, especially if they have covered a similar story in the past. If the reporter has covered a related story, call it out at the beginning of the pitch to let them know why your pitch is relevant to them.
3. Identify the story idea from the beginning of the pitch – do not make them search for it by placing the information too far down in the pitch.
4. Make the pitch work for the reporter – let them know why it is relevant to their audience, what interview opportunities exist and how they can get more information.
Developing a General Pitch
1. Start with the story idea – let the reporter or editor know what you want them to do from the opening of the pitch.
2. Grab the reporter or editor from the beginning – use statistics, provide an interesting fact, make a local connection, etc.
3. Don’t forget the important stuff! – see number four above
The pitch is where you catch the reporter’s attention and make him interested in what you have to say. I find that the strongest pitches are those that are tailored to a reporter or outlet with an interest or recent coverage related to your topic. Sometimes, tailoring a pitch to a previous story may not be possible, so a general pitch will be the route you have to take. Either way, you have to hit the high points and grab the reporter’s interest.
Your internship is a time for you to gain a wide variety of experience, and pitching is likely to be a part of it. One of the reasons I was able to do a lot of media relations as an intern was because I expressed my interest. Don’t be afraid to let your manager know what you enjoy and to ask to do more in that area – you might just become an expert along the way!
In my years of internship experience, I have often wrestled with one question: what is the key to loving what you do? I know that I love PR in and of itself—writing, media relations, creating—so I’ve never doubted that I chose the right field. The main question I ponder is if it is more important to love the clients you represent, the tasks you are completing or the people you work with?
My past internships included a little bit of everything—from working with a client I loved but doing very little real PR work to doing tons of traditional PR work for clients that didn’t exactly pique my interest. One thing I have found at PN, is a great combination of clients I can easily get excited about and ones that require a bit more learning to fully understand. But ultimately, it is the culture of our office and the professionals I am surrounded by every day that get me excited about coming to work every morning.
I believe that a major part of PR is learning—if you ever stop learning at your job, it’s probably time to move on. A challenge keeps you fresh and whether it’s learning new skills or learning about new industries, agency work has a way of keeping you on your toes. A major part of my PN internship has been learning new industries and applying my skills to new fields.
A firm or corporation is far more likely to be successful when its employees are satisfied. A corporate culture that I can mesh with is something that I have come to value more and more the longer I am in the working world. I feel very lucky to have found a firm where playing kickball, being on walking teams and having spontaneous fun are not such foreign ideas.
You spend a majority of your time at work, so it’s important to enjoy—dare I say love—it. Everyone looks for different things in a job, and like me, for most it is probably a combination of factors that make the job a good fit. As you begin looking for jobs and internships, it is important to know what you are looking for. For me, doing valuable PR work with people I enjoy working with and a sprinkling of cool clients is the perfect equation. What’s yours?
By: Amanda Coppock